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q & a session

Q - When did you take up photography and were you inspired by anyone or anything in particular?


AC - I got into photography as a teenager in 1983, after receiving a camera as a Christmas present. It was a budget camera, I remember that much - a Russian made Zenith EL, with detachable lens. I soon got to grips with aperture and shutter speed, as well as long exposure, composition and ISO. As time went by my keeper rate increased, from 1 out of 10, to 2 out of ten (laughs). As to what inspired me...Hmm, nothing and no-one in particular. The original appeal of photography was recording scenes of local interest, in and around South Hylton where I grew up. That's how my hobby evolved. It's nice to look back at those photographs now, many years on, and comparing them to the shots I capture now. It's also fascinating to see just how much the place has changed over the years.



Q - How did you learn about photography?


AC - To be honest, from day one I taught myself. Back in the day there was no such thing as internet, which I find is a great resource today. Back then it was hands on experience and trial and error that got me out of the blocks, plus the odd photography magazine, if I had any change left after a weekend on the pop!



Q - Is there any specific area of photography you specialise in?


AC - No, none in particular. That's the beauty of my hobby, if I get tired of one particular type, such as landscape, I can put it down and pick up something else, like seascape, nature, live music or architecture, amongst others. Each one brings its own challenges, which is all part of the buzz and more recently I've discovered an interest in astro photography (The night sky), which for me, has taken the word 'challenge' to a whole new level.



Q - Do you use photo software?


AC - Yes, although I'm no expert in this area, far from it. I currently use Photoshop CS6 and occasionally dabble with Lightroom. I also have a set of plug-in's by NIK Software, including an excellent one called Silver EFEX Pro, which I use for black and white conversions. I am a self confessed rookie at all things Photoshop, as I strive to capture the image as acurately as possible in camera, rather than bracket the exposures before editing them in post. I'm not one for spending hours on reworking single images. If an image needs that much attention then I usually bin it. I never salvage my work.



Q - Do you use filters?


AC - Yes, I wouldn't be without them. I use Lee Filters for many of my landscape and seascape shots, unless the horizon won't allow for it. Lee Filters are quite expensive, but worth every penny. Balancing exposure, in particular between highlights and shadows is a must, so I use a set of Neutral Density graduated filters to achieve good overall balanced exposure. I also carry a variety of solid ND's, including a Lee Big Stopper and a set of screw in's, all of different strengths, for whatever situation arises. I also use Skylight filters to protect all my lenses, fitted from day one.



Q - Have you ever sold your photography?


AC - Yes. It was never my intention to make money from my hobby. My photography evolved purely as a labour of love, until one day someone suggested I should try selling my work. I was a little apprehensive at first, but thought it was worth giving a go. Nothing ventured, and all that. I contacted my local Tourist Information Centre and within a day or two my work was displayed in their window. It was a great feeling when I learned that my work was selling well in such a short space of time, so more framed prints were displayed. Within a few months I was the main supplier to the branch and that continued over a period of 3 years until it was forced to close down due to council cutbacks. By this time however, I had established other local contacts and outlets for my work, including Sunderland Winter Gardens & Museum, Clay's Garden Centre and Penshaw Tea Rooms. I have enjoyed retail success at these outlets since 2010, and that continues today. I also sell my work through, which went live back in 2008, although the shop section is currently undergoing an overhaul.



Q - Do you have any personal favourite photographs that you have taken and why do you consider them as favourites?


AC - Yes, I have quite a few personal favourites. I'll narrow it down to 3 shots...

My first personal favourite is Buttermere Dawn, which I shot in the English Lake District on August Bank Holiday Monday, 2013. Like most of my favourite shots, there's a bit of a story behind it. We were on a camping trip and were due to travel home on the Monday morning. I decided the night before that I would set my alarm to daft o' clock the following morning as I wanted to visit Buttermere for sunrise. Upon arrival at 6am I was met with thick mist across the lake. Visibility was very poor, to say the least. It crossed my mind to abort the trip and head back to camp, but I decided to wait for the mist to lift, which it eventually did. The sight in front of me was stunning. The lake was mirror like, presenting perfect misty morning reflections towards the Sentinels on the south shore of Buttermere. This shot can be viewed here (LD12).


Another favourite shot of mine is a milky way nightscape that I shot on the Isle of Wight, during a family summer holiday in 2014. It was the day before we left home when I saw someones milky way shot on the internet, which was taken near our holiday base on the Island. It caught my eye immediately. A kind of 'Wow' moment. After seeing this shot I decided to have a go myself, even though I'd never seen the milky way. When a clear night sky presented itself I took the opportunity to attempt my first shots. It was a sight I'll never forget. The whole experience was one first after another - my first sighting of the milky way, my first shoot and my first attempt at processing an image of it. All those contributing factors are what makes this a personal favourite of mine. This shot can be viewed here (AP14)


Last but not least, an image that I captured in Autumn 2014, at Joe's Pond, Houghton le Spring. Whilst driving home after night shift around 7.25am, I was drawn to patches of mist over Rainton Meadows Nature Reserve. The mist had settled above the ponds and from a distance it appeared very eye-catching. I was hungry and tired after working a busy 8 hour shift and it would have been wise to go straight home, but I couldn't resist a visit the ponds to get a closer look at the mist. I had a choice of several ponds to visit, but decided on one in particular, Joe's Pond. I was soon at the waters edge. The mist was beginning to thin out as the sun rose above the trees across the back of the pond. It was a great sight but there was something missing. I noticed a few mute swans on the water and decided THAT was what was missing. I made a schoolby error in not fetching any food pellets with me, so it was touch and go whether I could coax the swans into the frame. I waved my arm about pretending to throw food into the water, which did the trick. I had to act swiftly as the mist was clearing quickly. The swans soon entered the frame, I was in luck. I waited until the birds were in the right position before tripping the shutter. The four silhouetted swans sat perfectly on the water, with the early morning sun and mist finishing off the shot perfectly. I was soon back home enjoying a cooked breakfast, a bath and then bed. This shot received fantastic feedback on facebook, with one person commenting that he had one criticism to make - that I should never go to bed on a full stomach!!!



Q - Do you have any aspirations and ambitions for your future photography?


My main goal is to carry on enjoying my photography. It is very satisfying and rewarding when people buy my work to display on walls, in brochures and books. Personally there is no substitute for being out in the field with my tool bag. I will continue to sell my work for however long there is a demand for it, but my priority is simply getting out there to take more photographs. My hobby can be very therapeutic, especially after a gruelling night shift when I often make the short trip to the coast to photograph a stunning sunrise. The two experiences are worlds apart.





Q & A session, conducted March 2015